Opening doors to stronger educational ties between Russia and Israel

If working in education teaches you one thing it’s that there’s always so much to learn! Which is why school principals from Israel’s World ORT Kadima Mada network have been in Russia visiting World ORT schools.

“We have so many things to teach them – and we have so, so many things to learn from them, too,” said Shimon Solomon, Principal of Kfar Silver Youth Village.

Accompanied by World ORT Kadima Mada Chief Pedagogical Officer Iris Wolf and Chief Operating Officer Avi Ziv, the principals were given privileged access to the ORT de Gunzburg School and the YESOD community centre’s ORT Vocational Training Centre in St Petersburg and Moscow’s ORT Technology School and ORT Tekhiya Centre of Education.

Russian schools a role model

There they talked with peers and students, gaining insights into the country’s educational approach – and gathering ideas for future collaboration.

“We can do so much networking between our schools, working together in technology, science and also agriculture. I’ve written so many notes, now I have homework to do to see what ideas can be put into practice,” Mr Solomon said, adding

“It’s important that we create an ORT family – it makes the whole more than the sum of its parts.”

This is precisely the kind of professional bond that World ORT Kadima Mada National Director Avi Ganon wanted to come out of the trip.

Shlomo Solomon, Principal of Kfar Silver Youth Village, is looking forward to greater collaboration with World ORT schools in Russia.

“The World ORT schools in Russia are role models for professionalism in Jewish education and, as a new network in Israel, we need to learn from them. By developing professional relationships between educators in the two countries that is what we will achieve,” he said

World ORT Kadima Mada has worked closely with dozens of affiliated schools in Israel over the past decade and played a pivotal role in a succession of innovative educational programmes. In 2014, it created a network of three – now six – directly managed schools.

A spiritual journey

The trip made a deep impact on Tal Cohen, principal at Abir Yaakov.

“This has been not only an intellectual journey, it’s also been an emotional one; it’s made an impression on our souls,” he said.

Visiting the schools has opened his eyes to the challenges and opportunities of Jewish life in the Diaspora and left him feeling proud of the contribution World ORT schools make to communal life.

“In the schools you see children with varying degrees of Jewish identity, some of them with very little connection to Judaism. Without the ORT schools these children would go to an ordinary public school and in one generation they would not even remember that they’re Jewish. Without the ORT schools they wouldn’t know themselves,” he said, adding that he was also looking forward to implementing some collaborative programmes.

The principals outside the building in St Petersburg where World ORT was founded by Samuel Poliakov, Professor Nikolai Bakst and Baron Horace de Gunzburg in 1880.

The tour had been a great success, Mr Ganon said, which had connected World ORT Kadima Mada educators with ORT values in the country of the organisation’s birth.

“It has opened doors to developing the network between Israel and Russia. And I am grateful to [Head of World ORT’s Representative Office for the CIS, Central Asia, Caucasian States and Baltic States] David Benish and [World ORT Chief Program Officer] Vladimir Dribinskiy in ensuring its success,” he said.